It isn’t often that legislation passes through the Senate free of controversy, but a bipartisan transportation bill was on a course to do just that — until yesterday. The bill, co-sponsored by Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer (CA) and Republican Sen. James Inhofe (OK), easily passed a procedural vote last week and, with President Obama’s support behind it, seemed ready to pass a final vote too.
Then, yesterday, three Republican senators ignored Inhofe and Boxer’s calls to keep the bill free from controversy and attempted to attach an amendment mandating the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which Democrats warned could “kill the bill.” Now, Sen. Rand Paul (R) has put a hold on the bill until leadership promises him a vote on an amendment that would suspend foreign aid to Egypt, Politico reports:
Paul wants to offer an amendment to the Senate transportation bill that would cut off aid to Egypt if nongovernmental employees working with the U.S. government are detained or held in the country, as Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood’s son, Sam, currently is. And unless the senator decides to offer consent to move forward to the transportation bill, the Senate would be stuck in a 30-hour holding pattern.
“We’re not going to grant back our 30 hours unless we get a discussion on Egypt. We’re not asking for a lot of time; we just want a discussion and a vote on whether or not we should continue sending money to Egypt,” Paul told POLITICO.
Paul said he is taking action now because he fears his amendment won’t be allowed if he waits until debate on the transportation bill begins.
Noting the urgency of the transportation bill, Boxer and Inhofe agreed not to attach amendments or provisions that could be controversial. It contains no taxes and none of the other traditionally controversial measures included in such bills.
“2.8 million jobs hang in the balance” of the bill’s passage before the current transportation package expires, Boxer told Politico. “And we have obstruction from our friends on the Republican side.”